Current Date: Wed, 19 Jun 2013 10:06:40 -0400
William Chris Dalton, a homeless man living on the streets of Chapel Hill, spent Monday afternoon cooking with members of Homeless Outreach Poverty Eradication in the basement of a local church.
Each month, members of HOPE host a free dinner for the homeless to bridge differences and fight stigmas in the Chapel Hill community.
“Every time I come here I make new friends,” Dalton said.
The dinner, which is hosted at University United Methodist Church on Franklin Street, is part of an effort to build relationships with the local homeless community.
“You walk down Franklin and you encounter a lot of people who are panhandling, and you immediately form stereotypes about how they got to their circumstances,” HOPE co-chairman Nikhil Umesh said.
“Getting to know them is really important to break down the stigma associated with homelessness.”
HOPE, a Campus Y organization, hosts the dinners in collaboration with a different interested student group every month to promote interaction between the students and local homeless population.
The members prepared and served chili and banana cream pie to more than 50 students, parents, volunteers and men from the local men’s shelter Monday evening.
Umesh said that although the student volunteers and the homeless are from different backgrounds, they are still able to form strong relationships.
“It’s an awesome feeling when you’re walking down the street and give a hug to a guy you never thought you’d even be close to being friends with,” Umesh said.
In addition to holding monthly dinners, HOPE oversees programs such as the Community Empowerment Fund, which provides financial advice to homeless or at-risk persons, and the HOPE Gardens.
“The best things come from the relationships we build,” said Tyler Fitch, a senior and community dinner coordinator for the organization.
“It’s not a service relationship — it’s a community relationship.”
Arnaldo Aldama, who has been living in the Chapel Hill men’s shelter for a year, said he was grateful for the assistance he has received through the Community Empowerment Fund and the relationships he has made with students through HOPE.
“Make a difference,” he said. “I’m old. Y’all are young. Y’all are young people, go make a difference.”
HOPE’s next dinner will be on Feb. 28th at 5:30 p.m. at the University United Methodist Church, and Fitch said all are welcome.
“It’s important to gain an understanding of why we have groups of people in our society who are often pushed aside or not given a voice,” Umesh said.
“Show them that there’s someone for them in the community.”
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